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MOBI sees increase in managing IoT devices

Enterprise mobility management is starting to include “Internet of Things” deployments as well as traditional mobile devices, according to MOBI, as companies get to a point where they want assistance in managing IoT devices and connectivity.

“I think it’s at a tipping point in the market,” said Mitch Black, president of MOBI. “They’ve got a critical mass of these things.”

MOBI, which focuses on enterprise mobility management, has started making inroads in managing IoT devices alongside smartphones and tablets. The company saw significant growth in 2015: it reported that its recurring revenue from its software-as-a-service offering increased almost 70% year-over-year, with devices under management up 41% from 2014. The company expanded its reach through a partnership with Microsoft’s enterprise mobility segment and reseller agreements with HP Enterprise and IBM, and plans to announce three more similar deals in the second quarter. MOBI also raised $35 million in funding through investment firm Bregal Sagemount, which bought a minority stake in the company; and acquired ArchTech, which provided mobility management for on-device security.

MOBI recently moved into a new headquarters with room for growth, after making 90 new hires last year and bringing its workforce to around 350 people. Black said that he expects the positive trends to continue, driven by companies seeking to have more automation and better tracking abilities around leveraging mobility, both for their workforce and for IoT.

He said that MOBI has been focused on managing IoT devices recently, with automating mobility-related processes of particular interest in terms of IoT devices. MOBI has traditionally focused on managing smartphones and tablets, but Black said that the company has increasingly been approached by companies which have reached a tipping point where their IoT deployments require more scalable management.

Most of such IoT devices, he said, are industry-oriented, machine-to-machine-type communications, such as video monitoring of trains that is triggered when a locomotive reaches a crossing and records the passing of the entire train; and tracking the flow of oil between pipeline points or monitoring electrical grids.

These are largely non-consumer products and the support, therefore, is quite different because there are no human end users, Black added.

“You don’t have the end-user support program, the person calling in — you’re not really going to have the help desk piece,” Black said. “It’s a lot around asset management and more controlling the connection and efficiency of data usage with the carrier.”

Due to low IoT module costs, he said, it is relatively easy for companies to start deploying thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of IoT devices, but the job of managing them all quickly becomes a major task. MOBI works with companies who have plans to deploy up to a million connected points, according to Black — and he notes that as MOBI specializes in cellular connection management, these lean toward cellular connectivity rather than Wi-Fi or other IoT technologies.

That could mean a huge change to MOBI’s managed device base. Black noted that the commercial impact of IoT vs. human customers to MOBI would be more nuanced than which type of devices dominate, considering the difference in service needs and costs — but said that he does see a fairly fast transition to a point where managed IoT devices outnumber individual’s devices.

“Today, it’s still a very small percentage” of MOBI’s overall device base, Black said, adding that “there are many more M2M connections that personal ones — could I see that overtaking the number of individuals in our base, on a per-device basis? Absolutely. How quickly that could happen? Within the next two years. That’s only based on the market size that we see today.”

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